• By: Dave Gross

In the NHL, it’s early but . . .

Photo credit: NHLI via Getty Images

It’s never really too early to start spinning a good tale.

So, here we sit, less than a month into the National Hockey League season with plenty of storylines crying for attention.

Given we live in an age of relentless social media, news and notions get hyper consideration and contemplation. Meaning? What happens early in a season like this one tends to get blown out of proportion.

And hey, what’s more fun than rampant conjecture based on tiny sample sizes?


In the NHL, it’s early but: All the nail-biters who were losing their sanity when Ottawa grabbed Brady Tkachuk with the fourth overall pick must be a little calmer now.

Tkachuk (injured for the next month) has been a revelation for a weary, beaten-down fan base.

The kid plays with swagger (we kind of knew that) and composure that belies his age (we kind of didn’t know that). The biggest surprise? Tkachuk’s smarts around the opposition net. He has the touch.

In the NHL, it’s early but: Even he doesn’t think this pace is going to continue.

But he’s having fun. Lots of it.

Ottawa’s other blue-chip (so far) rookie Max Lajoie is on a point-per-game pace with four goals and seven points in Ottawa’s first seven tilts.

“Out of camp, I was just trying to make the team, and be here, stay here, as long as possible. I had a great opportunity and kind of just took it. I’m running with it right now. My confidence is really high,” Lajoie told the Sporting News.

The kid has an infectious grin too.

In the NHL, it’s early but: Auston Matthews is a pretty good hockey player. Actually he’s created an argument among the long foreheads as to who is the best player in hockey (it’s out there folks).

Matthews has added saunter and a bit of bluster to his game. The kid looks driven and unstoppable.

In the NHL, it’s early but: Still with the Buds, day by day the moaning about the missing Willy Nylander gets quieter.

Kasperi Kapanen has nicely taken a spot on Toronto’s top line (or, top line #2) alongside Matthews.

We grumbled long ago, in this space, that Kapanen’s talents were being wasted on a fourth line.

Toronto doesn’t need to bend on Nylander’s reportedly outrageous contract demands (rumoured to be north of $8 million per season) . . . At least, at this early juncture.

“William Nylander is not worth what William Nylander thinks he’s worth,” one Western Conference executive told the Toronto Star this week.

In the NHL, it’s early but: You would think one of these years (or decades) they’d finally figure out the winning formula in Arizona, nee Phoenix.

Well, at least they’re consistent.

One thing the Coyotes should get credit for is their success at not scoring. Through seven games, Arizona has but 11 goals.

Not too bad a number if you’re a soccer team, otherwise . . .

In the NHL, it’s early but: The LA Kings are a pretty crappy team.

Someone forgot to switch in the ‘hey-we-play-in-2018-not-1988-button’ over here.

The Kings look slow and plodding (probably because they’re slow and plodding. See how this works?).

The Kings remain one of the NHL’s bigger teams but big-hockey isn’t the way of things these days.

In the NHL, it’s early but: The league’s best line continues to be Boston’s trio of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

Sometimes things just work out. These guys were thrown together a year ago by head coach Bruce Cassidy when he tried to shake things up and create more offence.

It, um, worked.

“Once they started playing well together, it was hard to break them up,” Cassidy told Sportsnet last spring. “I think that’s what it came down to. I think the plan, at some point, was see if we could go back to what we started because we thought we’d be more dangerous, but it kind of evolved into where we started to win games, and that line could skate together.”

Through eight games the trio has hit for 36 points.

This reminds me of what Ottawa 67’s coach Brian Kilrea did back in 2002. His team was struggling to score out of the gate that season, so he chose to put power forward Matt Foy alongside an up and coming playmaker in Corey Locke.

The two clicked immediately.

Foy finished the year with 61 goals, Locke had 63 and was the CHL player of the year.

In the NHL, it’s early but: Connor McDavid can’t do it on his own . . . although some nights that might not be true.

The flashy phenom needs help. Whether it’s Leon Draisaitl or Jesse Puljujarvi or even Milan Lucic (remember him?), the Oilers have to get someone rolling in consistent fashion.

Senators week ahead:

Tuesday, Oct. 23: Boston at Ottawa (7:30 pm)

Friday, Oct. 26: Ottawa at Colorado (9 pm)

Sunday, Oct. 28: Ottawa at Vegas (8 pm)